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Published by: Adina Aal on Jan 30, 2011
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As we have discussed, I believe these data reflect,
in part, student attempts to cope with the stress
brought about by emerging cultural dualities. The cul-
tural clashes between the old (some may say archaic)
educational system and contemporary societal and
cultural values, and the resulting lack of moral guid-
ance among the youth, stress the system and bring
about some of the consequences we are witness to

14 Years Old

15 Years Old

16 Years Old

17 Years Old

18 Years Old

19 Years Old

Number of

Chapter Four155

Family Attitudes

A friend of mine told me once about her experiences
with a Japanese parent-teacher association (PTA) at a
school in Japan. The PTA members were upset be-
cause their children/students were exhibiting and ex-
periencing more and more problems in school, in-
cluding some of the problems we have discussed here.
Yet their basic approach was, essentially, to look to
the schools to provide moral education for their stu-

While I do agree that education should be dis-
pensed in a manner that brings about morally appro-
priate behaviors as outcomes, I am not at all sure that
schools should be the primary moral socialization
agents for children or that parents should look to
schools to do that for them. It is akin to what is hap-
pening in many areas of the United States, where par-
ents look to schools to protect their children from vio-
lence or to instill the value of studying and obtaining
an education in the first place. In my experience, it is
very difficult for schools, or any other system outside
of the family, to have such an impact on their mem-
bers if the families do not hold the same values and
goals and become the primary enculturation agents.
For families, whether Japanese or American, to look
to schools to instill such basic values in their students
is a misplaced attribution of responsibility.
This attributional style on the part of parents and
families is due, in part, to the changing cultural rubric
of Japan. The attribution of responsibility described


here is a tendency that is exhibited in other individu-
alistic cultures; thus many of today’s parents exhibit
such tendencies, as do their children. In addition, many
parents still appreciate the value of an education only
to the extent that their children do well on tests, as we
discussed in chapter 3, and depreciate the moral and
character development of their children in the pro-

Individualized Attention and Its Implications for
Educational Reform

There are other consequences of social and cultural
changes that are not as dramatic as ijime and juvenile
delinquency. For example, increasing individuality
among students and families has brought about an
increasing awareness and perceived need for individu-
alized attention and instruction. Accordingly, one of
the goals of the Japanese government’s educational
reform plan15

is to lower the student-teacher ratio to
20:1. Such a trend is entirely counter to the prevailing
Japanese educational practice of large student-faculty
ratios and group-oriented teaching methods that are
well documented in international studies of educa-
tion and educational psychology. If such trends con-
tinue, they will in time force educational practices,
pedagogy, methodology, and even curriculum to

The current and previous Japanese educational
systems have been excellent at producing students

Chapter Four157

who can excel in academic material requiring rote
memorization. Yet it has not done well at fostering
other thinking skills, such as creativity or critical think-
ing. Many Japanese youth today, with their essentially
individualistic natures, have a need to be creative and
to think critically. Thus they are frustrated with the
Japanese system that discourages these skills in favor
of rote memorization of facts. This is yet another ex-
ample of the cultural clash that the youth of Japan are
experiencing today and that will undoubtedly lead to
curriculum reform. Such changes in curricula, more-
over, will in turn lead to changes in teacher training,
methodologies, and basic aspects of the Japanese edu-
cational system in the future.


There are many other differences in student and fam-
ily behaviors associated with the changing Japanese
culture. The interaction between these evolving cul-
tural characteristics and the overemphasis on educa-
tion, on the one hand, and the underemphasis on
moral and social development on the other, promise
to provide obstacles to the Japanese educational sys-
tem for years to come. To a large extent, these issues
are similar to those being faced in many countries and
societies of the world. The real issue concerns the de-
gree to which the Japanese can treat these obstacles
as challenges, thus turning them to their favor.


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